Hijacking Texas Education Funds Through the Guise of "Privatization"
News reports have been hammering our brains for the last year or so about how Texas must cut 3-to-5 Billion (with a capital “B”) dollars from “Education.” Of course, there's rarely any specifics about where these cuts are made. The cuts are just made and then left to the agencies and school districts to figure out how to deal with it.
At the same time that this budgeting fiasco has been going on, Texas has gone through some highly public battles with the school board over textbook rewrites and the state embarked on a major overhaul of their standardized testing system. So, out with the TAKS and in with the “more rigorous” STAAR and EOC (End-Of-Course) Examination system. As well, add in the massive spending involved in an attempt to set up a state-wide online curriculum and testing system. Through it all, one name keeps popping up: Pearson Education.
You may wonder who that is? According to Abby Rapoport in The Texas Observer, “Pearson is a London-based mega-corporation that owns everything from the Financial Times to Penguin Books, and also dominates the business of educating American children.”
In fact, The Texas Observer did an outstanding job of laying out some of the details and reasons why Texas taxpayers (and basically anyone in other states where Pearson is found) should be alarmed at their lobbying efforts. I recommend everybody read the article in full. My conclusion is that the people's call for “privatizing” the school system seems to have been misconstrued intentionally into a massive intertwining of government funds (meaning: TAXPAYER DOLLARS) with a massive FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION in a way that could only make Halliburton smile with understanding.
Calls for privatizing the education system are rarely demands to funnel tax money into the coffers of private corporations. Calls for privatization are calls to remove government from the system, thus returning all tax monies to the individual citizens, and allowing the free market to function. The individual citizens decide to whom and where to funnel the money...or not.
What the Texas Education Agency, Texas legislators, and the hundreds of for-profit corporations, like Pearson, are doing is a bastardization of the concept mostly done on the down-low while everyone in the media is distracted by the ridiculous nit-picky backbiting at the State Board of Education over what goes in and out of Texas textbooks.
You might ask why would I pick on Pearson so strongly. Is it just because The Texas Observer says I should?
Well, I did some digging just to see where our tax money was actually going in terms of “Education” and specifically in regards to Pearson. This was accomplished by visiting texastransparency.org which bills itself with this sub-line: “Open government is accountable government: a clear look at your tax dollars at work in Texas.” Unfortunately, it may be “clear,” but it most definitely is not easy to maneuver. They have the site rigged up in such a way that the information is there but in terms of ease of access – frustrating. The drop-down stair-step approach to the searches and the slow searching script and the unavailability of multiple searching within one session make it very difficult to get a straight and “clear” set of numbers. The numbers don't necessarily always quite add up either. Let me explain...
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